Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Paul and the Stoics

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Paul and the Stoics

Article excerpt

Paul and the Stoics. By Troels Engberg-Pedersen. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 2000. xi + 435 pp. $39.95 (paper).

The title may mislead the potential reader. Far more than a narrow comparison between Paul and a philosophical position, the book counts as a comprehensive treatment of Paul's ideas. The title is, of course, important. Engberg-Pedersen argues that Paul in his basic anthropological and ethical structure is similar to, indeed dependent upon, Stoicism. The notion of structure is key. He does not argue for dependency based upon terminological similarity or dissimilarity (the argument which has governed most previous such comparisons). Rather he presents a structure of thought which he claims is essentially identical. "Anthropological" and "ethical" are also crucial terms to keep in mind. Obviously Paul works out of a theistic-cosmological-- apocalyptic perspective that is totally dissimilar to the Stoic grounding in Reason. But the structure of what the person is and how the self can be transformed into concern for others is essentially the same in both positions. The emphasis upon anthropology reflects the author's own sense of contemporary relevance which Paul might have and obviously recalls Bultmann. The author, in fact, seems to sense that Bultmann is breathing down his back throughout the book.

The structure is (somewhat superficially) the following (the author uses a complex diagram, which I cannot duplicate here). The self is basically self-- concerned. The change from that ingrown concern can come when something outside the self influences the self to rethink (God, Christ in Paul; Reason in Stoicism). This rethinking (the issue of self-understanding is key) leads to a perspective which transcends self-concern and which is able to look at reality from a universal perspective. Ideally this then leads to a concern for and moral actions towards others. …

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